Last night might have been the best Home Run Derby in MLB history. It was truly a battle through the bracket up until the bitter end, with Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Joc Pederson battling it out in a 2nd round that required three tiebreakers. All in all, the eight superstar contestants hit a Derby-record 311 home runs.
Mets rookie Pete Alonso topped fellow rookie Vladdy Jr. in the final round, becoming only the third rookie to win it after Aaron Judge in 2017, and co-champion Wally Joyner in 1986.
It did feel somewhat like an Electoral College victory. After all, Alonso, nicknamed ‘Polar Bear,’ hit 57 total homers, while Vlad Jr., who was the youngest competitor in Derby history, hit a record 91 homers and set a single-round record with 29 bombs in both the first and second rounds.
But in the aftermath, all we can do and should be is impressed at the array of young talent in baseball today. And Pete Alonso is not only a seriously impressive player, but an impressive person as well. He won the biggest cash prize in Derby history, a whopping $1 million, which is nearly twice his 2019 salary. And he plans to donate 10% of it to charity, half each to the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides programs and services for veterans, and Tunnel to Towers Foundation, established in honor of firefighter Stephen Siller, who gave his life to save others on September 11th. When asked about his decision, Alonso told Newsday:
“This year, it’s just been so special. I’ve been living a fantasy,” Alonso said. “Yeah, it’s about the money, but for me it’s about the platform and the whole purpose behind it. The awareness is the important thing. And I hope other people can find the kindness if their hearts to reach out and help other people that help us.”– Newsday
It’s so huge when athletes step up and redirect their spotlight to shine on important causes instead of on themselves. It’s even more remarkable coming from someone so young, who, compared to his fellow athletes, is not making very much money, and is relatively new to the game and the platform it provides. Pete Alonso will surely have an illustrious and philanthropic career, and he’s only just begun.
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Photo: Getty Images/Jason Miller